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Taylor's 3-point shooting overwhelms Madonna

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — For one game at least, the Taylor University women’s basketball team was once again the offensive juggernaut they were last year Wednesday evening even with one big missing piece.

Kendall Bradbury is graduated and one of NAIA’s most prolific scorers is playing professionally overseas. Yet, the Trojans had little trouble outscoring Madonna (Michigan) in Odle Arena behind an 18-of-36 3-point shooting barrage.

Taylor, ranked 15th in the NAIA Division II preseason top 25, improved to 3-0 and averaging 76.3 points a game. Becca Buchs matched a career-high with eight 3-pointers and finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

Buchs was knocking down triples from well behind 20 feet and the Madonna defense grew increasingly frustrated with each make. It was the senior’s 19th-consecutive game with double-digit points.

“I definitely have been trying to get stronger over the summer just to make myself harder to guard,” said Buchs, who was 8-of-13 from behind the arc, about her increased shooting range.

Taylor outscored Madonna (1-3) by a 64-6 margin from 3-point range and seven different players contributed at least one basket. Sophomore Merideth Deckerd was 4-of-5, while freshman Taylor Browning was 2-of-3 and also knocked down 2-of-3 free throws after she was fouled on another long-range attempt.

“I’m enjoying it,” Deckerd said of moving into the starting lineup. “I don’t think there’s much of a change. I just come in and shoot and try to score some points.

“We’re working together real well and getting a feel for each other and putting it together now,” added Deckerd, who finished with 14 points.

Anyone who has followed Jody Martinez knows the Taylor coach loves the 3-point shot, and that hasn’t changed with Bradbury’s departure. Indeed, it may be even more of a strength this year with the Trojans lacking in experienced post players.

“The ball movement was very good,” Martinez said. “We were finding the shooters and whenever we had Becca open we knew we could hit her right away.

“We’ve been working on Becca and Meredith (shooting from) 24 feet out just because defenses are going to key on them, and that opens the backdoor,” he continued. “Not too many teams have matched up with us  far so they’re shooting them from pretty deep. They have the green light and I won’t stop them until they’re struggling and their legs are weak, but I didn’t see it from either of them.”

The game was only close at the start and Madonna took a 6-2 lead at 1 1/2 minutes into play. Yet, the Trojans came out scorching the nets from long distance and a Buchs ‘3’ put them ahead to stay 13-10 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.

Buchs had three of her ‘3s’ in the first quarter as Taylor opened an 18-14 lead, but the Trojans were merely warming up and knocked down 6-of-9 in the second to lead 44-30 at halftime.

While Buchs and Deckerd were the only Trojans in double digits, all 11 players Martinez used scored at least one point. Abby Buchs, Kayla Kirtley and 6-foot-4 freshman Gretchen Moll all scored nine points, and Browning and Madisyn Fischer had eight points apiece.

“Monday was the first time we had all 11 in practice, and the first two games we had starters out,” Martinez said. “In the first game against Cornerstone we had three out so getting people back and (Lauren James) is not coming back this year. She would have been a starter.

“Abby Buchs was out and Jamie Netzley was out and Jamie just came back,” he added. “That’s exciting because she’s a great defender and gives us more depth at the guard spot. We can go offensively in the starting lineup or we can go defense.”

Taylor’s win was its 21st straight including the 2018-19 season when the Trojans were 30-5, won the Crossroads League regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NAIA national quarterfinals. A historic season, but one Becca Buchs believes they can repeat.

“We have unlimited potential this year,” she said. “We’re pretty young and we’re not super experienced, but as the season goes on and we start putting stuff together we can make a pretty good run at nationals.”

Taylor plays Lawrence Tech at 8 p.m. Friday in the Leah Whittaker Classic at Indiana Wesleyan University.